While major projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail are "essential" to bringing transport into the 21st century, IPPR North has said, such schemes could take decades to deliver.
Smaller, short-term improvements such as a new Parkway rail station for Leeds Bradford Airport, it argues, could bring a huge boost to transforming the North's economy.
“Often the focus on Northern transport is about the big-ticket projects which will transform our economy in the longer term, and the Government must commit to these, as well as completing long-awaited programmes like the Northern Hub," said Luke Raikes, report author and senior research fellow at IPPR North. "But today we are highlighting the value of smaller-scale projects and the transformative effect they can have much sooner.
"These relatively inexpensive projects could be quick to deliver and could make a real difference for the people of the North."
Mr Raikes, arguing that the Government must use its spending review to allocate and devolve a £400m project development fund, added: “The North can bring these plans forward but needs the resources and commitment from Government to do so."
Outlining examples of "quick win" projects that could start as early as next year, IPPR North has highlighted schemes including the development of hydrogen trains for the Tees Valley, and bringing in new transport management technology to improve air quality.
In Yorkshire, it found, building a long-awaited new Parkway rail station for Leeds Bradford Airport could expand the region's connectivity across the country and worldwide.
A consultation is currently underway over the plans, which would see a new railway station built on the existing Leeds - Harrogate train line, with a spur road to the airport.
Coun Judith Blake, lead on transport for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Leeds City Council, backed calls for funding commitments.
“This report adds to the already compelling case for significant investment in transport in the North of England to unlock our full economic potential in a way that delivers for all our communities," she said.
“We need Government to continue to invest so we can keep the momentum going and fund both quick wins across the North and the development work for the longer term projects.”
The Chancellor, in the Spring Statement on Wednesday, confirmed Government will hold a spending review ahead of the summer recess, to conclude alongside the Autumn Budget.
This was, he added: "assuming a Brexit deal is agreed over the next few weeks and the uncertainty that is hanging over our economy is lifted".
And Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, warned this weekend that too much public money is being spent on "white elephant" infrastructure projects.
"I'm in favour of gritty infrastructure," she said in an interview with The Times, suggesting that the Treasury may look to smaller ideas to ensure practical changes.
"The two most crowded train lines in the country are commuter routes going into Manchester. Sometimes we look at the big sexy shiny stuff, and we need to spend more time looking at how everybody is getting to work each day."